Videos ()
Reading, Writing, and Roentgen


Commode à vantaux

David Roentgen (German, Herrnhag 1743–1807 Wiesbaden, master 1780)

Designs for figural marquetry by Januarius Zick (German, Munich before 1730–1797 Ehrenbreitstein)
Stencil drawings and stamp-cutting of marquetry Elie Gervais (1721–1791) and his workshop
Frieze mounts attributed to Pierre Rémond (1747–1812)
ca. 1775–79 with later alterations
German, Neuwied
Oak, pine, walnut, mahogany, and cherry veneered with hornbeam (partially stained), tulipwood, walnut, holly and maple (both partially stained), boxwood, mahogany, and other woods; red brocatelle marble; gilt bronze; iron, steel, and brass
35 1/4 x 53 1/2 x 27 1/4 in. (89.5 x 135.9 x 69.2cm)
Credit Line:
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982
Accession Number:
  • Description

    A marquetry commode branded twice on the uprights of its back with the crowned double V mark of Versailles entered the Museum's holdings as part of the outstanding collection of fine and decorative arts formed by Jack and Belle Linsky. In April 1779, the same year that the celebrated German cabinet maker David Roentgen (1743–1807) was named ébéniste-mécanicien to the king and queen, Louis XVI paid him the large sum of 2,400 livres for a commode. It is tempting to identify the Linsky commode as this piece of furniture, but discrepancies with a description of 1792, when the king's commode was transferred to Paris, rule this out. There is no doubt, however, that the commode was made in the Roentgen workshop, and as Roentgen is known to have supplied numerous pieces to the French court, it could well have belonged to one of the other members of the royal family.

    The elaborate mechanism that allows the key in the frieze drawer to lock or unlock all three doors below is characteristic of Roentgen's furniture. The slightly curved left- and right-hand doors have spring-operated hinges, and the upper drawers swivel open to give access to hidden drawers when a button underneath is pressed. The mosaic-like quality of the commedia dell'arte scene on the central panel of the commode is also typical of the marquetry Roentgen's shop produced. Almost painterly effects were created partly by staining the wood in different shades and partly by using minute pieces for small details like the eyes, eyebrows, lips, locks of hair, and shadows on the faces of the characters Columbine, Anselmo, and Harlequin. The commode was originally even richer in color; the striped tambour covers of the top drawers have kept their blue green stain, and some of the faded blue green sycamore veneer remains on the frieze.

    The marquetry on the side doors has been altered, so that it now shows an empty stage. The left and right front panels on two closely related commodes by Roentgen (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich) depict theater boxes filled with spectators, with medallions with portraits of a Roman emperor and empress hanging on the wall behind them. The marquetry on the Museum's commode might have been altered during the Revolution to obliterate portraits of the king and queen. The fine gilt-bronze floral and foliage scrolls on the frieze were also later additions, replacing heavier German mounts that may not have conformed to the latest French taste. The commode was probably sold from Versailles during the revolutionary sales. It became part of the furnishings of Mentmore Towers, a large country manor built for Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (1818–1874) in Buckinghamshire, and remained there until it was auctioned off in 1964.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Marking: Branded twice on uprights of back: Double V beneath crown (the château mark of Versailles)

  • Provenance

    possibly Louis XVI, King of France (until 1792) ; Baron Mayer de Rothschild , Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire ; Earls of Rosebery (by 1884–1964; sale, Sotheby's London, April 17, 1964, no. 54, to Linsky); Jack and Belle Linsky (until 1982; to MMA)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History